One Direction’s ‘no show’ and Northern Ireland football’s finest showing in 30 years were referenced at Downshire School’s annual awards night.
Principal Jacqueline Stewart paid tribute to members of the school’s music department who waived the attractions of the pop band’s concerts to entertain guests at the annual ceremony.
Speaking the night after one of the group’s performances in Belfast was controversially cancelled at short notice, Mrs Stewart quipped: “This evening (Wednesday) we have heard a sample of the talent in our school and I thank those members of the choir and band who are present for not going to the One Direction concert. I hope that after depleting our music department they (One Direction) actually appear on stage tonight.”
Later in her speech, Mrs Stewart noted among the ranks of Downshire governors is Crawford Wilson who “has had a hectically busy year in his work as council member on the Irish Football Association and role as UEFA delegate”.
“I am sure he was ecstatic when Northern Ireland qualified for the European Championship next summer.”
Addressing guests, parents and pupils, the principal extended a special welcome to guest of honour, Colonel Nick Tougher TD, VR of the North Irish Horse Regiment. The school has partnered the regiment on the Churchill tank heritage project, which is now showcased at Marine Gardens.
Mrs Stewart also drew attention to the contributions of long serving members of staff, including Mrs Lynass, Head of Department, Mathematics, who moves into retirement after 35 years; Mr Bingham , who says goodbye after serving 37 years in the Music, ICT and Technology departments and Mr L Davison after 38 years teaching PE, ICT and Maths.
“From the non-teaching staff we said a fond farewell to Mrs Margaret Reilly, lunchtime supervisor and Mr George Dillon, building supervisor. Both were very long-serving members of staff, indeed Mrs Reilly joined Downshire in 1977 when it opened.”
Turning to academic achievement, Mrs Stewart noted excellent results at both GCSE and Advanced level. Contemporary Crafts, for example, returned 88% A* - C grades in its first year of delivery.
“The moderators were so impressed by how we deliver the course that they sent other schools to see what we do.”
Mrs Stewart added: “It is our policy to enter every pupil from special needs to the top band for GCSE examinations and I am pleased to report that 92% achieved at least one top grade at GCSE and high grades in equivalent subjects.”
Stressing Downshire’s pride in community school status, the head teacher focused on how careers, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and youth initiatives are delivered by teaming up with local businesses and organisations.
She also touched on wider programmes, regional, national and international, that help shape pupil development, such as the Youth Parliament, Rotary Youth Leadership challenge and the Confucius Classroom Project.
Mrs Stewart detailed too individual and team success at sport and in other cultural areas, often stemming from opportunities provided via Downshire.
In her concluding remarks, the principal stated: “I congratulate all our young people on their success, both inside and outside of the classroom. They have done themselves proud in what they have achieved in terms of academic results and personal development.
“I must also thank the highly committed staff for helping our young people to reach their full potential - it has been a job very well done.”